Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sleeping beauty

Funny thing.  I've slept day and night for four days and nights.  I feel ok, but I also feel like I could sleep 10 hours right now.  And I just woke up from 14 hours solid sleep.  Strange.  I'm the kind of guy who can only sleep 5 hours, no matter how tired.

LP and I are off for a half day adventure, somewhere.  Maybe the woods, if the weather hold, maybe bowl a couple games if it rains.  Doesn't matter.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Home for real

Finally home with no courses, travel or crew-x looming on the horizon.  I've slept most of the last two days and nights and am feeling human with a mug of coffee and Baileys sitting in front of me.  Its raining today, but I think LP and I are going to head into town to pick up a shipping box for our soldier's care package and maybe do a little shopping.  I've also got to clean out my workshop sometime today, or tonight.  Maybe a BBQ tonight, or tomorrow.  Mr. Bud??

In other news, my oppo on the ship has just informed me that the next crew-x will be on our regularly scheduled date, nearly 3 WEEKS away!!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 1 of offshore survival courses

Up early and out the door by 7, I spent most of the day in class, listening to lectures.  Safety, first-aid, life-boat, offshore legislation, etc.  We did some CPR, trained on the AED (automatic external defibrillator) launched an enclosed, motorized life boat, but it was mostly lecture-based and boring.  After class, I stuck around to check out the escape chute used on North Sea rigs.  Very cool, like something you might in a McDonald's play area, but its deadly serious business to escape a burning, exploding rig.  Tomorrow is FIRE and sea-survival and promises to be much more fun, if we can manage to stay out of the classroom.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

No rest for the wicked

Although I've only been home 4 days, it is time to fly, again.  This time, I'm off for Lafayette, LA.  It's time for fire-fighting, first-aid and helicopter underwater escape training.  Only a 5-day trip, but I sure wish I was staying home. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New port

Sitting quayside in Cartagena.  The steam into the bay was breathtaking.  The quay?  Not so much, but it looks like a front-end loader is loading giant bales of cocaine, right in front of our ship.  No shit, there are clouds of white powder all around us.  Very ironic if its actually flour, or something.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Yes, I dropped off the blog'oshpere's radar for a while.  I've been balls to the wall with a nasty, system upgrade and a port call in Trinidad.  Both are done and I'm nearly done steaming to Cartagena, Colombia.  We arrive tomorrow morning.  I'll spend the day giving a handover, the night drinking like a fish in some seedy, port bar, then fly out next morning.  Life has been hectic and it aint over yet.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


It was good to leave Angola and West Africa in my wake.  It was a glorious site to see Luanda fading astern as we sailed East across the Atlantic toward the Brazilian coast.  Two weeks of quiet steaming, except for a small deviation to a collection of rocks poking out of the depths known as San Pedro Island.  Noting really to see, but I doubt that there are many people in the history of mankind who can say they've laid eyes on those lonely rocks.  Another week sailing North up the coast past Brazil, French Guyana, Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela and we come upon Trinidad and Tobago.  This morning, we rounded the North end of Trinidad, made the Dragon's Mouth passage and are now waiting off Chaguarmas Harbor for the harbor pilot to take us into the quay where we can hit the Crews Inn and a bottle of rum.

I hear there is an American warship docked here.  I hope to get a chance to walk over and thank them for their service, maybe buy a sailor or two a beer at the Crews Inn.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Au revior, l'amie ordinateur? Yes, my French sucks, so what?

Close.  So close I can smell the rum.  I just wandered over to the vacant navigators station and fiddled around with the ECDIS, which I believe stands for Electronic Chart DISplay.  It shows me steaming along 32.5 miles from the northwest point of Trinidad, at azimuth 260.  Today we had a MOB drill, threw the dummy in the water, then launched the MOB.  Unfortunately, we also tossed in a life ring and popped smoke.  The poor MOB guys had to also bring back the still-smoking life ring.  When they came alongside to get winched back up to the boat deck, they were completely enveloped in thick, bright orange smoke.  Coughing so hard I thought the coxswain was going to puke.

After a fun and frolicking general safety meeting (NOT), I began tearing apart my system in earnest.  Its been sort of emotional.  I've been working with this system for nearly two years.  We've gone through good times and bad, lean times and times of abdunace and productivity.  Its woken me up in the middle of the night with various ailments and at times given me great joy when ploughing through tens of terabytes of processing, clicking along at 100%, all 112 CPUs firing out jobs like a phlanx gun spitting depleted uranium.  And now I'm tearing out its heart and packing it into a large, wooden crate, wrapped in garbage bags, taped up to resemble a first-aid textbook dummy laid out in a casket.  Its rather sad.

Tomorrow, as I sit in the Crews Inn, I'll be raising my first glass of rum in a toast to my system, the good old girl, TD cluster, as she heads off to the airport and Trinidadian customs, never to be seen again.

On the bright side, I've got a bad-ass replacement coming, bigger, stronger, faster-yeah, something like The Bionic Man.  Cannot wait to take it out on the road, open it up and see what it can do!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Two days out

Found out I am not the only one on the crew who has to stay on after crew-x and steam to Columbia.  It doesn't help.  Not one bit.

Had a wrinkly, old hot dog for breakfast.  Instant coffee made with 7 scoops.  3 smokes.  I'm in a foul mood and the storms on the horizon are mocking me.

Two days out of Chaguaramas.  Two days away from a cold beer at the Crews Inn.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It was good to be king

With sat comms restored, I've gotten pretty busy.  Not too many emails waiting for me as we actually had so many that our mail server crashed and deleted them all.  No tears shed, there.  Still, I'm chasing up a hundred different things right now, in preparation for port call in Chaguaramas, Trinidad.  Port call is going to be utter madness for me, as I will be sailing to Cartagena, Columbia instead of flying home, if I cannot get everything done.

Went up on deck about 5:30 this morning with my coffee, to watch the sunrise.  The waters are a deep blue, but have that emerald green, when turned over in the bow wake.  That's the Carribean as I remember it.  Its been about 9-10 years since I've sailed these waters and they look awfully inviting after nearly a year of wallowing around off the mouth of the Congo.

Starting to firm up my travel plans for FIRE/HUET/SEA SURVIVAL training this coming break.  Its a week out of the middle of my break, but "safety first" is the rule.  Anyway, it looks like I'll be training in Lafayette, LA., the first place I ever trained at.  Years ago, it was pretty lousy training and I pray its better now, but am not holding my breath.  I'll miss  the boys at TEEX and all the big fire.  Damn, I'll miss all the big fire, especially that call at the end of the day to see if anyone wants MORE fire.  I never missed the chance for more fire:(

So, I leave you with a couple more shots of the recent ceremony.  Me as King Neptune, my queen, naughty nurse and attending pirates.  I think my baby is missing, but I'll post another of him as the poor pollywogs are licking mayonaise out of his bellybutton...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Xing the line, again

Along the way, we crossed the equator and once again, tortured a few pollywogs.  They were judged, sentenced, force-fed some medicine (think oyster sauce, pesto, chili paste, strawberry sauce and vinegar), then bathed (in the foulest shit known to man), head shaved, humiliated, forced to lick mayonnaise out of the baby's bellybutton (oh joy!), then covered in custard.  Afterward, we had a BBQ.

Across the pond

So, this was the story as we crossed the pond, out of touch with the entire rest of the world, for two, very long weeks:

Day 1 without sat comms.  We all find ourselves occasionally reaching to check email, or Google some vital piece of triva, or trival piece of vita.  Seas are calm and its getting hotter as we head West by northwest, toward the equator.  The sea looks beautiful and somehow more expansive.

Day 2 without sat comms.  Fire drill today.  My job was to grab someone and police up two spare lengths of fire hose, a nozzle and a couple of hose wrenches.  Carrying a section and nozzle in one arm and the wrenches in my back pocket, I crossed the helideck to the bow and started down the stairs to the foc'sle deck, below.  I didn't make the first step.  They were slick with spray from the bow.  My feet shot out from under me and I rocketed down the stairs like I was shot out of a cannon.  I slid all the way out, flat out on the foc'sle.  The back of my head hitting each stair on the way down sounded like a machine gun-baseball knot back there, now.  The arm carrying the hose and nozzle smashed into the flat bar of the stair rail at the bottom, as I shot by.  Ripped open my wrist and it swelled up like an August tomato.  I've got bruises from the back of my head to my heels.  Back is shot to hell.

Day 3 without sat comms.  Took 45 minutes to get out of my rack and into a hot shower.  I am one sore mo fo.  Eating lots of pain pills and muscle relaxers.  Medic just shakes her head when she sees me.  I was damn lucky.  There is no medi-vac from this far out.  Still hurts like a bastard, though.  We are beginning preparations for the torture of 22 poor souls who have not yet become shellbacks. Looks like I am King Neptune, again and the Chief Nav, my comely (homely) wife.  He keeps nagging me for a new outfit for the ceremony.  I told him I'm not made of money and if he wants a new dress he better damn well make it himself.  After all, I've got to make my own crown, trident and braces for my wrists.  Lots of cardboard, tin foil and spray paint...I now needs me robes, belt and sandals.

Day 4, no sat comms, dammit.  System crashed.  Re-booted one of my servers and found out it was connected to the sat comms.  With no sat comms it hangs on WAN and I am dead in the water until sat comms are restored.  Found a beard for King Neptune.  Recycling Santa's kit...

Day 5, no freaking sat coms.  No system.  Lost samba connection to system.  Time for house-cleaning.  Drudge work.  Well, that took all of an hour.  Only like a week to go, dammit.

Day 6 of this crap.  Work on the UPS (uninterruptable power supply that powers critical systems in times of crisis) means shutting down my entire system.  With one server hung and one process inadvertantly shut down, I am not happy about the prospect.

Day fucking 7.  We're nearing the middle of the Atlantic.  I completely shut down my system, then spent 4 hours bringing it back online.  Nearly everything was restored and I am back in business, preparing for my upgrade.  Time to begin work on preparations for the ceremony.  I need a trident, crown, hair, big fucking mustache, beard, some sort of robes, cape.  Also have to set up some of the props and find myself a comfortable chair for a throne.  I'm not holding court on a work bench.

8.  Obtained a purple sarong from a Malaysian fellow.  Made hair, crown and trident.  Still need a damn cape and a throne...made a couple of tubs to dunk the pollywogs in.  Tomorrow is the ceremony.  Can you imagine swimming in a large vat of assorted juices, sauces, balsamic vinegar, cooking oil, grease, with a bucket of 4 day old food scraps mixed in?  I'm talking egg shells, veggies, rotten meat, prawns, etc?  The crap each pollywog must drink will be much the same..

Day 9.  Long day!  Started just after dwan, preparing tubs for them to be submerssed in, filled them with a horrible mixture of everything foul we could get our hands on.  Set everything up, put on out costumes and led the pollywogs through the ritual.  It was a blast. but once again, I was a very pasty white, partially clothed, King Neptune, venturing into the equatorial sun.  I'm totally sunburned and exhausted.  A few of us had to clean up after the ceremony, including washing the helideck with a fire hose and that just wore me out.

Day 10.  We are still in the middle of the Atlantic, though closer to Brazil, than anything.  We have detoured slightly to come alongside San Pedro Island-a tiny, largely unknown Island.  It is, as far as we know, uninhabited and desolate, but we'll see in just a few more hours.  Well.  During a drill where we moved around the ship, refreshing our knowledge of various fire-fighting and first-aid apparatus and techniques, we passed to the North of the Island, or Islands.  A motley collection of small rocks many hundreds of miles off the coast of Brazil.  We saw three, small boats, a lighthouse and a satellite dish.  No people.  Very small, maybe a half-dozen acres at best, all rock and sand, coral and beach.  Beautiful when viewed from the perpective of this rusty, old tub, but otherwise not much to look at.

Day 11  Nothing happening.  Internal audits, wandering around the ship, laundry and sweet boredom.

Day 12.  We're several hundred miles off the coast of South America, heading northwest past northern Brazil toward French Guayana and Suriname.  I'm reduced to filing old emails and wishing I had some laundry to do.  The weather has been unfailingly, hot and sunny with scattered clouds and fair seas. I see a lot of flying fish fleeing the bow wake.  Looking forward to working out tonight, as the past two nights have been my nights off.

Day 13.  Nothing.  Fuckall.

Day 14.  We received the codes for a new satellite, but nothing works.  I wonder about my family.  For all we know, WWIII has broken out, or the sun is about to go supernova.  We are all frustrated.

Day 15 Woo Hoo!  Sat comms are back.